FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
I m a police officer with a federal agency. The National Association of Government Employees (NAGE), a non-cop union, represents us. I refuse to be a member because I don t think they have a clue about what police officers need. In the federal system, the union can t negotiate pay that s just a government thing but they can negotiate work conditions and some of the fringe benefits (e.g., roll-call pay and OT for having to be in 15 minutes before and after shift). Our union failed us miserably in this area because they don t understand and are terribly afraid of the administration here.
I polled the officers about the Fraternal Order of Police, and the majority were in favor. However, the chief and the union say that NAGE is the only union allowed to serve us. How is this legal? I can t seem to get an answer.
Dear Officer Perplexed:I m going to start by knocking a few of your teeth down your throat. Unions get their strength from numbers, so not belonging is about as smart as cleaning your gun while it s loaded. How about you give that a shot and let me know how it works out?
The police association ol Bullethead belongs to is currently about as useless as a Nerf billyclub in the middle of a riot. Not being a whiney chump, however, I don t run away and save a few bucks a month, and neither should you. Ol Bullethead ain t no quitter. So I go to the meetings, mostly so I can lob bombs at the idiotic board members, but also so I can try to change the policies the board has chosen. I also try to get some of the youngsters interested so they can join the board and hopefully make some changes. I served in the past and may serve again in the future, but right now, I have other priorities.
Where do you get your protection? Does NAGE provide representation to you and your partners? If they do and if you aren t a member, you would be a great candidate for the association board where I work because you re an idiot!
Wait, wait, I know, you never get into any trouble, so you don t need representation, right? Sure thing, slick. That s a great way to end up knee-deep in trouble, or worse yet, unemployed.
Cops and trouble are like cars and accidents. Most of the time it isn t just one car screwing up; it s one car screwing up and smacking another car that happens to be around. You could be doing your job just fine and along comes some citizen or some crook who acts in a way that causes you to react. What you do might be perfectly reasonable from your perspective, but when it shows up all over the Internet, it might not look the same to people sitting in their cubicles or on their couches at home.Bottom line:If you work in a custody situation or carry a gun and a badge for a living, you need legal protection.
I ve never heard of not getting paid for roll call. If you re required to be there and you aren t getting paid, you better check your contract. If you didn t sign something that specifically requires you to be there without getting paid, just take them to court based on federal labor law and wait around for the fat check to roll in. If NAGE won t do it, do it yourself on behalf of all of the officers. I m sure you can find a lawyer willing to jump on that one.
As far as getting paid for getting dressed and undressed, I ve heard of some agencies claiming they must wear all that gear so they need to get paid. I think it s pretty much hogwash, especially taking 15 minutes to get undressed. I see cops doing that in less than five minutes without breaking a sweat. With the economy bouncing back and forth between crap and #$@*, I d be really careful asking for things most people don t get.
Ol Bullethead is plenty smart, and I can be craftier than a cat burglar on a two-story job, but I m not a lawyer. If I were, I d spend all my time putting the Capheads through college by getting your cases thrown out, not figuring out if NAGE is the only organization that can represent you. Go find a lawyer, and ask them. In the meantime, try to change your own union by getting involved instead of just complaining.
Got a question or complaint?Let Bullethead hear about it. He'll give you his opinionWITH BOTH BARRELS.E-mail him firstname.lastname@example.org fax him at 619/699-6246.